Effective Altruism London Landscape in 2019

Over the last few months I’ve found my­self de­scribing the land­scape of effec­tive al­tru­ism in Lon­don to mul­ti­ple peo­ple and thought it may be use­ful to write it down to give a bet­ter idea for those who are in­ter­ested.

A key point is that it’s hard to know ex­actly what defines some­one who is a mem­ber as we have no for­mal mem­ber­ship, and there are vary­ing lev­els of in­ter­est and en­gage­ment. Within Lon­don there are peo­ple who are in­ter­ested and en­gaged in EA but not ‘part’ of Effec­tive Altru­ism Lon­don (EAL), i.e. not in any of the Face­book groups, not on the mailing list and not go­ing to events or­ganised by EAL. They may still be quite en­gaged by hav­ing friend­ship groups that were in­volved in EA at uni­ver­sity or work­ing at an EA re­lated or­gani­sa­tion but that is a minor­ity. Most peo­ple will be en­gaged via their ca­reers/​dona­tions/​read­ing but with­out a link to oth­ers in­ter­ested in EA or the main EAL com­mu­nity.

I would guess that less than 10% of peo­ple who are aware of effec­tive al­tru­ism in Lon­don in­ter­act with EAL in some way. For peo­ple who are highly en­gaged with EA I would guess 50% but these num­bers are quite un­cer­tain.


A Brief His­tory of EA London

EA Lon­don was started by Sam Hil­ton in 2012 as a vol­un­teer pro­ject, mainly con­sist­ing of monthly so­cials and oc­ca­sional talks. In 2016 Sam took a year out to set up EA Lon­don as a reg­istered char­ity and work as a full time com­mu­nity or­ganiser, funded by peo­ple in the EA Lon­don com­mu­nity af­ter a few strat­egy meet­ings where we thought that this might be a use­ful ex­per­i­ment to try.

At the end of 2017 Sam went back into the civil ser­vice and Holly Mor­gan and I worked part time for EAL. In 2019 we were funded by a grant from CEA for one per­son to work on com­mu­nity build­ing full time. The strat­egy has shifted over time from rais­ing aware­ness and try­ing to in­crease at­ten­dance. There is now a fo­cus on in­creas­ing the amount of value added con­nec­tions peo­ple have as a re­sult of EAL ac­tions, in­clud­ing to other peo­ple, re­sources and re­search. There is an overview of the 2019 strat­egy here.


What EA Lon­don Has

  • 1 full time employee

  • 5 trustees

  • Registered char­ity sta­tus, al­low­ing gift aid and re-grant­ing to other EA or­gani­sa­tions (less rele­vant now with EA funds)

  • Web­site with links to sub-com­mu­ni­ties and resources

  • Mailing list of 2000 peo­ple with about 1000 open­ing the newslet­ter each month

  • Face­book group with 2140 mem­bers and a page—the page is rarely used but does al­low for dona­tions and paid advertising

  • Com­mu­nity di­rec­tory with 80+ people

  • 20-50 in­for­mal vol­un­teers at var­i­ous times over the year, mainly peo­ple that run their own sub-com­mu­ni­ties or events


What EA Lon­don Does

  • Main­tain the web­site, Face­book and char­ity infrastructure

  • Monthly newsletters

  • 1-1 dis­cus­sions, usu­ally fo­cused on ca­reers, donat­ing or learn­ing more about EA

  • Helping con­nect peo­ple to jobs/​resources

  • Sup­port­ing EA or­gani­sa­tions and sub-groups with mar­ket­ing, feed­back and connections

  • Act­ing as a gate­keeper/​filter for var­i­ous groups and to help in­tro­duce peo­ple who are new to EA Lon­don to find out rele­vant ways to get involved

  • Oc­ca­sional events, but mainly sup­port­ing oth­ers who want to run events


Effec­tive Altru­ism Groups in London

Here is a sum­mary of the var­i­ous groups in Lon­don, gen­er­ally most are not that ac­tive un­til they get to 150+ mem­bers, with ex­cep­tions for groups that are quite spe­cial­ised like policy and biose­cu­rity. Stu­dent groups vary wildly in ac­tivity de­pend­ing on who is in the com­mit­tee that year.


In the last two years there have been more EA re­lated or­gani­sa­tions be­ing cre­ated or mov­ing to Lon­don. They rarely have pub­lic events (ex­cept for an­i­mal orgs and the APPG) and so in­ter­ac­tion with the wider com­mu­nity is limited.

There are some re­mote staff in Lon­don for var­i­ous EA re­lated or­gani­sa­tions, such as An­i­mal Char­ity Eval­u­a­tors, Cen­tre for Effec­tive Altru­ism, GiveWell, Sen­tience In­sti­tute and Re­think Char­ity.

There are also small pock­ets of peo­ple at var­i­ous other or­gani­sa­tions al­though these are of­ten not as ac­tive and I can only think of a few work­places with at least 3 peo­ple who reg­u­larly meet.


Summary

It may be best to see effec­tive al­tru­ism in Lon­don as mainly in­di­vi­d­u­als in­ter­ested in EA, with a sub­set of peo­ple who are parts of var­i­ous net­works, maybe work­ing in the civil ser­vice, tech or fi­nance and may want to stay up to date with EA news but would only come to an event once ev­ery year or two but are much hap­pier en­gag­ing when a rele­vant topic comes up or the chance to help some­one in their ca­reer path. There is an even smaller sub­set of maybe 100-200 peo­ple who reg­u­larly go to events once a month or so, usu­ally within a sub­group. Over time EA Lon­don has shifted our strat­egy to con­sider that most of the value may not be from at­ten­dance or on­line en­gage­ment and have tried to fill in gaps not cov­ered by ex­ist­ing organisations